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There are three types of lists:

  • Bulleted lists for unordered items
  • Numbered lists for ordered items
  • Embedded lists for items within a sentence

Here are some tips when creating lists:

  • Keep list items parallel
  • Start numbered lists with a command (imperative verb)
  • Consistently punctuate by using appropriate sentence + punctuation within the list (periods for full sentences, etc.)
  • For numbered lists in markdown, only use 1 as your number. Since markdown auto-creates the numbering, you could get into a situation where you remove a step and the markdown no longer matches the output.

​​ Bullet points

Bullet points help the reader’s eye focus on a list of important elements.

However, as with any other aspect of writing, they should be used mindfully. Below is a list of when you should and should not resort to bullet points.

❌ Do not use bullet points✅ Use bullet points
To outline processes (prefer numbered lists)To list facts
To explain your reasoning (it is a blog post, not a list of system requirements)To list data
-To list options

​​ Bulleted lists

Instructions should be numbered steps and not bullet points. See steps/tasks/procedures for additional information.

Do not punctuate bullet points unless each item is a full sentence.

If bullet point items are followed by a description, use a colon after the heading and capitalize the description. For example,

  • Item 1: Description 1
  • Item 2: Description 2

For bullet points, try to stick to the “six-pack” rule: no more than six bullets, each made up of six words or less.

Refer to The best way to use bullet points for additional guidance.

​​ Bulleted list checklist

When you find yourself creating a list of bullet points, go through this checklist:

  1. Do all bullet points belong together?
    • Check that all the elements in the list are logically connected.
  2. Do I have more three or more bullet points, but less than six?
    • Readers get lost when reading long lists; at the same time, if you have less than three elements to list, is it necessary to use bullet points?
  3. Are all bullet points shorter than three lines of text?
    • Bullet points should not be used as section headers. If you have excessively long bullet points, consider breaking up the list into several subsections.
  4. Is punctuation consistent?
    • End all elements of a bulleted list with a period if each element is a full sentence; do not add any punctuation if you are just listing nouns or parameters.
  5. Do all bullet points start with the most important word we want the reader to remember?
    • Make sure the “head” of your bullet point is not hiding after a long circumlocution.
  6. Do all bullet points start with the same part of speech?
    • If your bullet points start with verbs, make sure all verbs are in the same mood/tense.